I’m still trying to get a handle on Donald Trump’s unexpected success. This post, therefore, isn’t about whether Republicans should or should not vote for him. It is, instead, an effort to analyze why voters from both parties are drawn to him. Because I believe that Trump is essentially a pop culture figure, my analysis today looks at him through a pop culture lens.
My starting point is the 1970s, which was a turning point in America culture, much as we are in a turning point today. Back then, the Depression and WWII generation had hit middle age and older, and the Baby Boom generation was starting to control society.
Into this transitional era came All In The Family and Archie Bunker. The show’s creator, Norman Lear, and his stable of liberal writers, envisioned Archie Bunker as a truly malevolent character whom they could ridicule to comedic effect, while simultaneously destroying the “primitive” shibboleths of the Greatest Generation.
Lear and his cohorts were surprised and chagrined when Archie, instead of being a reviled figure, became one of the most popular characters in TV history. If you read about All In The Family’s success, the conventional wisdom is that Carroll O’Connor was such a brilliant actor and decent human being that he imbued Archie with a humanity that appealed to viewers no matter what words they put into his mouth. That conventional wisdom, of course, comes from Leftists.
I’d argue that Archie’s appeal was a lot more simple than that. Archie may have been crude and insensitive in the words given him, but the audience quickly figured out that he was the one who spoke to old-fashioned values and practical common sense. The show didn’t destroy the old ideas. Through Archie, it gave them a voice.